Once we’d decided we liked the new house just below ours—the one that had sprung up so quickly and unexpectedly a few months earlier…
…we were anxious to meet its owners.
But they didn’t seem to be around.
For two years we watched and waited. The one time we spotted the owner’s brother (aka, the contractor) working in the yard we walked down and introduced ourselves and asked what shade of yellow he’d used for the house (I wanted to try the same color for one of the downstairs bedrooms).
He told us the color and that was that.
Then one day a few months later Michael announced that our yard was tumbling down not-so-slowly into our neighbor’s property. The rickety chain link fence dividing our land had essentially given up the ghost.
I was listening, but barely.
“This is serious,” he said.
“It could be expensive.”
“This could undermine the foundation of our house,” he went on.
That got my attention. “Did you say undermine?”
“As in, our house could fall down?”
“Eventually,” Michael said, wandering into the other room, turning all coy now that he had my attention. “If not sooner.”
Jane gave us a number for Hal, the contractor-brother, and Michael called him.
“We were wondering if your sister would be interested in sharing the cost of a retaining wall.”
Hmm, Hal said, funny you called, my sister was just talking about putting up a wall the other day. Let me give you her number in Baltimore.
We were planning to call Hal’s sister Corinne once we got back to D.C. but she beat us to the punch by appearing on our doorstep the day after Michael had called Hal.
“Your brother didn’t tell us you were on the island,” I remarked.
“He’s very discreet.”
As usual, Michael cut right to the chase: “So what do you think about sharing the cost of a wall?”
“I think it makes sense. Let’s get some bids and take it from there.” He had clearly met his match in the straight-talk department.
We exchanged pleasantries and showed her around our place. “My brother and his wife are coming by for dinner tomorrow night,” she said. “Why don’t you guys drift down for a drink beforehand?”
We’d be delighted.
Considering that Vieques is really nothing more than a small town surrounded by water, it was strange that we never heard any gossip. Ever.
Not that we hadn’t tried our best in the past to extract information from Jane but she always clammed up the minute we started asking questions; and while we admired her professional discretion, it seemed like she could have thrown us a juicy tidbit here and there.
In any case, Hal and his wife Margot, a realtor, had lived on the island for two decades, and after a couple of glasses of wine…
…they told us more about Vieques in an hour than we’d learned in the past five years.
Not that any of it was mean-spirited. Actually, none of it. Just interesting. When you’ve put your heart and soul into a place, it’s nice to know a little bit about how it works, and Hal and Margot were happy to share what they knew.
Case in point: Margot was able to tell us how long our house had been on the market when we bought it, why it hadn’t sold previously, and so forth.
Real estate junkies that we are, we found this fascinating.
Yep, we liked our new neighbors just fine.